Presumably RW feels that if sufficient other Proms sell well/sell out, he can afford to let Oliver Knussen have his "party" with his annual Prom, which is always intelligently thought out and imaginative, and thus correspondingly has a smaller audience, as Martin Kettle noted in his Guardian review:
It sounded excellent on iPlayer, and I heartily concur with the warm sound OK conjured in particular in the Debussy. Nice also that Alexander Goehr was present to take a bow after his Metamorphosis/Dance.'......sadly, all too often, attendance is small but select. "No one empties a hall quite like Olly," one of his admirers admitted on Saturday. But some of the giants of Knussen's generation were there all the same.
And one more thing – the Olly Prom is always a big musical learning experience in a way few concerts are. Knussen doesn't just conduct his own concerts; he curates them, too. There's a real sense of them reflecting his formidable mind and his interests. It's impossible not to be drawn in. Not enough people come. But I bet none of them leave early.'
Hearing this performance makes it the more disappointing that OK didn't get to Santa Fe this summer for the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, as originally intended. He would have conducted his own Songs for Sue and the Alban Berg Chamber Concerto, but subs had to be called in. I asked someone connected to the Festival what happened, and the official explanation that I got was that OK had an attack of gout. For those at the RAH, how did he seem, walking to the podium, and his general manner? If there were no signs of ill health, one then wonders. It's perfectly understandable if he decided that a trans-Atlantic trip was too much to handle, but then I don't know how much international travel he does these days.
The rigours of a long-haul flight are arduous enough young and fit, let alone all the protracted business that attends getting on and off the plane.